The Latest Obstacle to Solar Power in #Virginia: the PJM Project Queue RSS Feed

The Latest Obstacle to Solar Power in Virginia: the PJM Project Queue

Solar energy is the cheapest source of energy available to the world today. The more solar energy we can generate, the better… up to a certain point. Once solar and other intermittent energy sources comprise 30% or so of the juice supplied to the electric grid, they create problems with reliability during extreme weather events, which can be surmounted only through investment in backup generation and energy storage. Until we reach that point, however, here in Virginia we should be doing everything possible to promote solar.

The Virginia Clean Energy Act (VCEA) has set the goal of achieving a 100% zero-carbon electric grid by 2050 (most of it supplied by solar and wind), but we’re nowhere near 30% renewables. Bacon’s Rebellion has highlighted one of the big obstacles facing solar developers in Virginia — getting large, utility-scale solar farms local permits in counties where residents want to conserve pristine viewsheds and traditional agricultural lifestyles.

It turns out that there’s another obstacle — getting projects approved by PJM Interconnection, LLC, which oversees the electric grid in the 13-state region of which Virginia is a part. There is no lack of proposed solar projects — whether they are economically viable is a different question — and PJM is overwhelmed.

Once solar developers obtain state and local environmental and planning permits, they submit their projects to PJM for evaluation. PJM requires developers to absorb the cost of connecting their projects to the electric transmission grid. Costs vary widely depending upon the project’s distance from the grid and the grid’s ability to absorb additional capacity at the point of connection. Ascertaining that cost requires detailed engineering study. PJM does not have sufficient staff to keep pace with the surge in the number of projects, and approvals are taking longer than ever.

Developers of well-capitalized, utility-scale projects are frustrated because PJM has worked on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the project queue is clogged with small, unfinanced projects that may never be built. Indeed, between 2000 and 2015, only 24% of projects seeking connection nationally were completed — and the percentage is declining.

Read full article at Bacon’s Rebellion